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What Does Sleep Have to do with Weight?? - Dr. Clare Craig

Feb 05, 2013


Quality sleep is very important, and can impact memory, cognitive function, and the immune system, but we may not recognize the connection between poor sleep and weight gain.  Studies have shown that there is a correlation between shorter habitual sleep time (chronic sleep deprivation) and an increased BMI (Basal Metabolic Rate).  BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

The reason behind this may have to do with two key opposing hormones which participate in appetite regulation, leptin and ghrelin.

  • Leptin is a hormone produced by fat cells which suppress appetite
  • Ghrelin is produced by the gastro-intestinal tract, and stimulates appetite
  • Leptin and ghrelin work in a kind of checks and balances system to control feelings of hunger and fullness

Studies find those who get less than 8 hours of sleep per night have lower levels of leptin, and higher levels of ghrelin. This means appetite is stimulated, and you don’t feel as satisfied after you eat, both of which can lead to overeating and weight gain.

So what are some basics to support healthy sleep patterns?

  • Work on your sleep hygiene: this doesn’t mean going to bed clean, it means setting up habits that help your body prepare for a good night’s rest
  • Sleep in a dark room – our brains are trained to associate darkness with sleep, and this triggers melatonin production
  • Use your bedroom for sleep and sex only! This makes it easier to relax in your bedroom when it’s time to sleep
  • Regular exercise helps to sweep excess stress hormones from the body and promote a good sleep
  • Avoid stimulants close to bedtime: caffeine and alcohol can increase night-time urination and cause sleep disturbances
  • Herbal teas such as Chamomile, Lemon balm, and Valerian can help calm the nervous system
  • Consult your ND if these simple steps do not improve sleep, as adrenal and hormone imbalances also negatively impact sleep and can be treated



Dr. Clare Craig, ND, CD(DONA)
Naturopathic Doctor, Doula
Island Optimal Health & Performance
Island Optimal Health & Performance
#103-1808 Bowen Road
Nanaimo, BC   V9S 5W4



Please add a comment

Posted by Fide on
Ashley you are singing my song! Women dowaplny the importance of sleep and they are paying a big price. I can't tell you how many clients I've worked with who are floored by the difference in appetite, energy, motivation just about everything when they start honoring their need for sleep. Thanks for laying it all out so clearly.
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